Senior aide and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was the White House official reportedly behind getting the commander in chief to change his position on withdrawing from NAFTA.
The president, who had repeatedly called it the “worst trade deal ever” on the campaign trail, changed his tune after speaking with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month, who convinced him to renegotiate the deal instead. But it was Kushner who personally called Trudeau and ‘begged’ him to talk sense into Trump.
The unconventional move was revealed Monday by the National Post, who spoke to several government sources familiar with the desperate pleas from Washington.
Toronto’s Metro newspaper later revealed that Kushner was the government official who made the phone call.
White House advisers had been worried that Trump would scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement — after he famously dubbed it the “worst trade deal ever” — and decided to phone the Prime Minister’s Office to get Trudeau to change his mind, the sources said.
“You never know how much of it is theatre, but it didn’t feel that way,” a senior Canadian diplomatic source told the Post of the call between Trump’s people and Trudeau’s.
“Maybe they’re just learning how to be a government,” the source said. “At least they were open to the conversation, and that stopped them doing something rash and destructive.”
On April 26, Trudeau reportedly called Trump to see if he could convince him of renegotiating the trade deal instead of scrapping it. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto followed suit.
By the next day, Trump said he had reconsidered.
“I like both of these gentlemen very much,” he said. “They called me and they said, rather than terminating NAFTA, could you please renegotiate? I like them very much. I respect their countries very much. The relationship is very special. And I said, I will hold on the termination; let's see if we can make it a fair deal.”